A fancy name, but nearly effortless to make! A chef/cook/friend came over for dinner the other night, with another chef in tow, and the four of us enjoyed a relatively simple meal that I completely forgot to photograph. We had a slightly chilled seafood salad with freshly steamed and picked crabmeat, brined medium shrimp and some tiny squid with a lemon vinaigrette, a touch of chili and lots of Italian parsley as a starter, enjoyed with a well-chilled bottle of rosé champagne that the guests brought with them. We soon moved onto two versions of bistecca a la fiorentina (one pre-marinated and one completely naked as specified in Pellegrino Artusi’s tome, the Art of Fine Eating) to compare and contrast… and with that we had a heavier red wine, and didn’t realize we had a third of the bottle of champagne left over. With the steaks, I also served a warm spinach salad, a potato and rutabaga mash that was WONDERFUL, and some oven roasted baby carrots. For dessert, some sliced strawberries from the Mt. Province mixed with sliced Cebu mangoes and imported blueberries all drizzled with heavy cream.
So, what to do with the leftover champagne? A really easy granita that doesn’t require any special equipment or any complicated instructions. To make, just stem roughly 4 cups of red seedless grapes and throw them into a blender. Add about 1/4 cup (or more) of simple syrup (half cup of sugar with roughly 1/4 cup water), and about 3/4 to 1 cup of leftover champagne. Blend until well mixed, and strain solids/skins out of the liquid. Place the strained liquid in a shallow metal or glass pan and place in the freezer. After an hour or two, check to see if ice crystals have formed and scrape with a fork. Scrape every 45 minutes after that until it reaches a nice consistency and it is quite dry. Serve at that point. If you are making this for a dinner, start your granita at about 1-2pm, depending on how cold your freezer is. The results? Very, very nice for the minimal effort required. Remember that coldness deadens the sweetness, hence the high sugar content of most frozen desserts. The alcohol content of the champagne must help with the texture of the dessert, not to mention the flavor… it adds a bit of sophistication, without screaming “leftovers”… :) I served this about an hour shy of the ideal temperature, but it was still pretty good, and looked fantastic as well. I need to remember this for fancy and festive holiday dinners. Some folks might leave the grape skins in, but I was going for a clearer granita, hence straining them out. :)
The morning after, I snapped these shots of the granita in dappled sunlight… and in a classic crystal champagne saucer from Baccarat, it looked like a million bucks. :)